Onward and Upward: Day 2 of the NPT PrepCom

April 24, 2013

The second session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) continued on Tuesday with two sessions devoted to general debate. This second day was much like the first. The day began with an off-the-record briefing by the United States delegation for NGOs. These briefings, which are coordinated by Reaching Critical Will, feature a different major NPT delegation each day and provide an opportunity for representatives from those delegations to outline their countries’ goals for the PrepCom and answer questions from NGO representatives.

General Debate

The plenary session resumed promptly at 10:00am, during which general debate continued. The morning session consisted of opening statements from a number of countries, including Ireland, Nepal, Brazil, the Netherlands, and the Islamic Republic of Iran, among others. A statement was also made on behalf of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI), and the IAEA also gave a statement. Opening statements continued in the afternoon, with Canada, the Republic of Korea, Syria, Qatar, and Chile, among others, taking the floor. The Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the CTBTO also gave a statement on behalf of that organization.

There were few surprises in Tuesday’s statements. Thailand noted that it will host an ASEAN workshop on UNSCR implementation on 14-15 May, and suggested establishing a network of nuclear regulatory authorities in the Southeast Asia region to support safeguards, safety, and security. Several delegations emphasized disarmament particularly strongly in their statements, with some expressing support for new initiatives such as the Group of Governmental Experts on a fissile material treaty and the Open-Ended Working Group on disarmament. Another popular topic was the postponement of the Conference on the Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East; many delegations expressed disappointment or dismay about the postponement. There is a clear difference of opinion about the cause of the postponement: some delegations were quite critical of the convenors, particularly the United States, for making what they called a “unilateral” decision to postpone without consulting the states of the region, while others pointed out that not all regional states had agreed to attend and a conference without all interested parties would serve little purpose.

Nearly all states condemned the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s aggressive stance on nuclear weapons and its recent test, although Ireland’s statement noted, “Regrettably, there is a familiar ring to the language of deterrence with which the DPRK attempts to justify its efforts to develop nuclear weapons.” Fewer states commented on Iran, although some, such as the Netherlands and Belgium, did urge Iran to cooperate with the IAEA in resolving concerns about its nuclear program. The strongest language came from Canada, whose statement argued, “Should Iran fail to address the credible and very serious concerns about its nuclear program, it is next to impossible to avoid the conclusion that Iran is in non-compliance with the NPT.” For its part, Iran objected to being linked with the DPRK and called it “shameful” that some delegations had put it on “the same footing” with a non-party to the Treaty.

Side Events

There were several side events during the lunch hour on Tuesday. The NPDI hosted an event on reducing the role of nuclear weapons in military doctrines, which featured Gareth Evans, George Perkovich, Sergey Rogov, and Bruno Tertrais. As seven of the 10 NPDI members are covered by U.S. nuclear guarantees, this was a particularly relevant topic for discussion. The panel therefore discussed the nuclear umbrella, as well as prospects for the reduction of the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines or the possibility of no-first-use policies in P5 states. Panelists observed that several of the P5 states, including the United States, are aware of the ramifications for disarmament of the role that nuclear weapons play in their national security doctrines, but that they have so far failed to take much action as a result. They argued that having a debate about the standard for nuclear weapon use, at a minimum, would be a positive step forward.

UNIDIR also hosted an event on practical steps toward transparency in nuclear disarmament. MIIS alumni Tamara Patton and Philip Schell, along with Pavel Podvig, presented their UNIDIR research on New START Model for Transparency in Nuclear Disarmament. Ambassador Amano of Japan opened the side event by observing that transparency is fundamental to disarmament efforts: only through transparency can verification and reporting credibly take place. The panelists emphasized that in order for disarmament to proceed, it would be imperative for nuclear-weapon states to share definitions of terminology and to report aggregate stockpile numbers, detailed data exchanges, and notifications and inspections. Russia and the United States have decades of experience discussing nuclear disarmament, and their experiences and terminology can be applied more broadly in multilateral disarmament. Using open-source information, the authors of the report were able to provide Chinese, French, and UK numbers for the categories of data accounted for under the New START Aggregate Numbers of Strategic Offensive Arms September 2012 report. Considering these numbers were exclusively compiled from open sources, states have no security barriers to participating in START-type reporting, and doing so would produce the political benefits of greater state accountability.

Finally, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and Ban All Nukes generation (BANg) hosted an event on disarmament and nonproliferation education, at which Dr. William Potter, CNS’s director, was a commentator. The event also featured comments from a hibakusha survivor of the Hiroshima bombing, the director of the Japan Council Against A-Bombs, and the director of the Basel Peace Office. The panel noted that there have been a number of positive developments in the area of disarmament education since 2010, but that there are also many shortcomings. The principle of disarmament education has spread across states, but there has been insufficient progress in translating that principle into action; moreover, very few states are aware of the recommendations for education and even fewer are implementing them. Additionally, there is currently no standard mechanism to report on education initiatives, so while a number of states do have education activities, they do not necessarily report them to the UN.

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